Women pioneers, visionaries and leaders in Nursing

Celebrating the accomplishments of two leading Gator Nurses

When Dr. Linda Aiken (BSN 1964, MSN 1966) graduated from the UF College of Nursing, her mentor and the college’s Founding Dean Dorothy Smith knew Aiken’s potential and the impact she would have on nursing and health care. As an internationally renowned researcher whose pioneering work has transformed the profession and patient outcomes, Dr. Aiken has often been referred to as the “Florence Nightingale” of our time. In 2020 Aiken was named a “Living Legend” by the American Academy of Nursing, following in the footsteps of her mentor and the college’s founding dean Dorothy M. Smith. Smith was named a Living Legend in 1996. Aiken credits the great education she received at the College of Nursing that made her an excellent clinical nurse and provided her with the foundation to excel in research and impact public policy for the greater good.

(Linda Aiken, top row, right, at graduation)

As founding dean in 1956, Smith dreamed of a new form of nursing education — a school where knowledge-based clinical excellence was the norm for administrators, faculty members, staff nurses and students alike. Smith brought national recognition to the UF BSN program through the introduction of bold nursing innovations, often contrary to established practice and, therefore, highly controversial. A pioneer and visionary in the nursing field, Smith influenced nursing education’s renewed commitment to and influence in clinical nursing—a commitment that laid the foundation for many of the most important nursing advances over the past few decades.

Today the world of nursing education and research is forever shaped for the better thanks to the pioneering efforts of Smith and Aiken.

(Dean Lois Malasanos, left, Linda Aiken, center, and Dorothy M. Smith, right)

Dean Smith, who passed away in 1997, was interviewed by Dr. Aiken in 1979 for a series titled: Distinguished Leaders in Nursing. Here they discuss three major events of significance for nursing education, namely: (1) the recognition by Florence Nightingale that nurses have an impact on patients’ (soldiers) mortality and thus need an education, (2) the development of a biological and social science base essential for the nurse’s competence, and (3) the introduction of the clinical teaching in nursing who retains competence in the practice of nursing.

Dorothy M. Smith

“In my career, I would say that I am most proud of those patients I’ve cared for, the students who I have helped and the technology that I have helped to create to improve nursing care,” Smith said. “I always felt it was better to tell people what was possible rather than say something wasn’t possible.”

Linda Aiken

“All Gator Nurses that I meet have a commitment to evidence-based practice that makes them stand out in any setting. Being a UF graduate is not just a club but a shared commitment to excellence that remains a recognizable trait. I am proud to be a Gator Nurse.” – Dr. Linda Aiken